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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 27

The Position of New Zealand

The Position of New Zealand.

Probably you will all admit that the main incentive to the progress in any nation as a separate people is the rivalry, and the desire to surpass others, which may prevail amongst its citizens; and that, in the same manner, a rivalry between nations is what tends most to the advancement of all. For example, if you will look at Great Britain. It lies separated from France by hardly a greater interval than separates this island from the Middle Island of New Zealand. Then, immediately joining France we have Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway—all the page 6 most learned nations of Europe, assembled, as it were, in one great mass. Those nations, excelling as they do in literature, in art—in all the qualities which constitute human excellence—are, as it were, at once the judges and the witnesses of one another's actions, of the proceedings of each of them, and an emulation and rivalry necessarily exists between them, if not to lead in the van of civilization and literature, at least to be left at no distance behind in the race. What is our position here? We are separated by great breadths of ocean from all other nations on the face of the earth, and even those nations which surround us most nearly have but few opportunities of giving us a great example as to the course we should pursue in attempting to gain those objects we have now in view. We occupy a very isolated position indeed. There is little to rouse our emulation, to awake our rivalry with any other people. An effort was made early in the establishment of this colony to remedy those difficulties in our position, by dividing these island into separate provinces or states, which in some degree caused emulation to rise amongst one another, and to arouse the people in the different parts of New Zealand each to try to surpass the other, and under that system, great emulation and great rivalry did exist. Various kinds of colonisation were tried, and various means of developing the energies of New Zealand in every part, and thus were safely founded the great colonies which have arisen within the limits of these islands, but it seemed wise to a majority in your Parliament—I will not say to a majority of the people, because at that time there was no justice in the representation, but it seemed wise to the majority of your Parliament to abolish those institutions, giving thereby a keen pang of disappointment to myself and to many others. (Cheers.) But what was our duty? Not to sink under a blow of the kind, but instantly to rally up to the misfortune which we thought bad fallen upon us; to endeavour to make the best of our position, and so to found our future institutions, that nothwithstanding such a disadvantage we might still make that progress which we believed we were capable of achieving. (Cheers.) Many feared that one dead level of human enterprise would soon exist in New Zealand. The people in the remote parts of the colony, finding their wealth drawn away to one central portion, finding that the prevailing instinct was to subsist upon the Government, and to trust to the Government and the land fund to found all great institutions—the fear was that the people of this part of New Zealand would sink into a state of apathy, and forget what was their duty as free men in founding institutions of this kind, by constant appeals as paupers to the public treasury. (Applause.)